June 15, 2011
No one should ever forget that we have a Constitution because the Founders regarded government as a threat to liberty and in need of restraint. And no one should ever forget that the Founders regarded the judiciary as the most dangerous branch of government because, as exemplified by Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi, it was the branch least likely to practice voluntary restraint.
Last Monday, Wisconsin Club for Growth acted on those beliefs and filed a Request for Investigation with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.
The document cites potential misconduct by Judge Sumi in the trumped-up collective bargaining case now pending before the state Supreme Court. It points out that Sumi filed a brief with the Supreme Court asserting “definitive legal positions on issues that had not been adjudicated in the circuit court action in which she was presiding.”
Cut through the legalese and what that says is Sumi submitted a brief that demonstrates she’d prejudged the outcome of a case in which she was the sitting judge. Unless someone can persuasively argue otherwise, Sumi violated court rules that require a judge to step aside if they’ve made public statements that commit—or appear to commit them—to one position or another in a proceeding under their review.
In Sumi’s handling of her review of the new collective bargaining law, the appearance was that she’d prejudged the case and was angling to thwart the lawful actions of the Legislature and Governor. She then went ahead and acted in precisely the way it appeared she would.
Maybe the Judicial Commission will make Sumi explain herself. In any case, the least accountable branch is on notice that people are paying attention.
Update from Wispolitics.com
The state Supreme Court today threw out a Dane County judge’s ruling invalidating the collective
bargaining law, according to online court records.
The decision had not yet been posted at the court’s site by late this afternoon. But a posting at the court’s site for the appeal described an order in which Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi’s orders in the case are vacated and declared void.
The brief description on the court site said the court concluded the Legislature did not violate a provision in the Wisconsin Constitution that the doors of each house shall be open except when public welfare requires secrecy. During oral arguments last week, there were a series of questions about public access to a conference committee meeting in which lawmakers took up the legislation. That meeting was the basis of the open meetings violation Sumi found in invalidating the law.